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A surge in the number of thefts from HGVs has prompted Staffordshire police to focus its resources on hot-spot areas and issue security advice to lorry drivers.

The force said that in January alone, drivers in the county reported stolen cargo and their vehicles being tampered with on 17 occasions.

This month, officers received three further reports of vehicles being targeted in one night on the M6 northbound Keele Services lorry park.

Operation Yard will see officers deter criminal gangs by ensuring police are present in areas where crimes have been reported, especially during the evenings.

The police said it was also working in partnership with haulage companies, drivers, service stations and the central motorway police group (CMPG), to share crime prevention advice and identify offenders.

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Chief Inspector Rachel Joyce said: “Because of our location, a lot of heavy goods vehicles stop overnight in Staffordshire.

“While the vast majority do so safely, we know that there are criminals who come into the area to target these vehicles.

“We are carrying out a number of engagement events as part of our pro-active approach to tackling freight crime in Staffordshire, working in partnership with agencies including National Vehicle Crime Intelligence Service and CMPG.

“The events are focused on engaging with HGV drivers to raise their awareness of the possibility of their cargo being targeted.”

• Almost 200 packets of cigarettes and tobacco worth £15,000 were stolen from a supermarket which had stopped at traffic lights in Stoke-on-Trent. Police said the offenders had opened a padlock to access the rear of the lorry about 40 minutes earlier. Thieves then climbed into the vehicle on Leek Road, Shelton on 9 February to access the 190 packets of cigarettes and tobacco.